The Apple of Sonora’s Eye
By ANGELINA MARTIN
The splendor of the 209’s Gold Country is enough to entice visitors from all over the state, but cider and nature enthusiasts alike feel right at home amongst the sprawling apple orchards at Indigeny Reserve – Sonora’s stunning cidery which offers hiking with scenic views in addition to delicious drinks.
Indigeny Reserve sits on 160 acres of foothill countryside, offering visitors breathtaking views courtesy of hiking trails along Phoenix Lake and leading to a Gold Rush-era mine, all in between sips of hard cider on the grounds’ shaded picnic area. “When people come out here, they’re enamored by it,” said owner Jay Watson.
Jay and Judy Watson purchased Indigeny’s apple orchards in 2005 with the intent of producing organic apple crops, and soon, the pair decided to make hard cider with the apples that didn’t make the cut for all-natural apples.
Since then, Indigeny has grown to offer three different varieties of hard cider – a drier, yet sweet, organic cider, the refreshingly-sweet Extra Crisp cider and a blackberry cider, the sweetest of the three. Ciders at Indigeny are crafted with a unique blend of 52 apple varieties, like Granny Smith, Honey Crisp and Red Rome.
“We’ve found that most people like a sweet cider instead of a dry cider,” said Jay Watson.
After visiting cideries up and down the west coast for inspiration back in 2008, the Watsons realized that their endeavor was bound to be different from other inner-city operations, utilizing the vastness of their Sonora property, establishing a productive manufacturing line and, most importantly, bottling their product in aluminum containers, rather than glass bottles that most cider works use.
“We took a trip from here to Canada, talked to everybody, drank everything and realized that about 99 percent of everything out there tastes pretty bad,” said Jay, adding that in most cases, a cider is ruined by its packaging.
“A couple of the places put their cider in plastic bottles, and you could taste the plastic,” he said. “We went with aluminum bottles because they don’t break on the bottling line, don’t affect the taste and are a legal container, so we can sell them at ball parks, fairgrounds, state beaches and places like that.”
The cidery originally began with 50,000 bottles, but Indigeny’s first large-scale order of one million bottles was just delivered to the reserve in mid-November. The expansion will allow Indigeny to sell in more stores from Reno, Nevada to the Fresno area, and comes in the midst of talks with Bay Area distributors to get their product into more stores statewide.
“When we got our ciders into BevMo! stores in the valley, it sold out in the same day,” said Jay. “So, we’re encouraged.”
Indigeny Reserve also makes vodkas, created with flavors like sun-dried fig and lemoncello, and apple brandy, with some barrels that have been aged for nearly seven years. All of the cidery’s products can be sampled at their tasting bar, and tours of the operation – including its impressive group of 3,000-gallon fermentation tanks – are also available.
While no weddings are held on the property yet, the Watsons host hundreds of sight-seers annually who are looking for some fresh mountain air and a quality cider.
“We get about 60 percent new people coming in, and about 40 percent are repeats. That’s amazing, and means that people are coming in through word of mouth,” said Jay. “People do birthday parties, or come here to jog and hike from all over the area and they do it here because they feel safe.”
Hot Buttered Apple Cider
A lovely drink on a cold winter night, or to share with guests during Holiday get-togethers.
½ lb. dark brown sugar
¼ – ½ cup butter
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
Dash of nutmeg
12 cups Indigeny Hard Apple Cider
Cream the sugar and butter.
Add spices and mix well.
Heat Indigeny Hard Apple Cider to near boiling and add to spice mixture.
Indigeny Holiday Fondue
A flavorful recipe for cheese fondue using Indigeny Cider. This recipe is perfect for dipping veggies, soft pretzels, toasts or sliced apples!
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
1 bottle (12 oz) Indigeny Hard Apple Cider
6 cups shredded cheddar or swiss cheese
Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.
Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes stirring constantly.
Stir in Indigeny cider and heat to boiling.
Boil 2-3 minutes until thick and smooth.
Reduce heat to low and add cheese, gradually, stirring until melted and smooth.
Transfer to fondue pot and serve with apple wedges and cubes of sour dough bread.